House Committee Gives Handouts to Wealthiest Farmers, Delays Critical Environmental Program

WASHINGTON –(ENEWSPF)–July 9, 2015.  The House Appropriations Committee yesterday passed an agriculture appropriations bill that destroys critical environmental protections while leaving the lavish and wasteful federal crop insurance program unchecked, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016 contains a rider that would delay implementation of the conservation compliance program for yet another year. The program is a quid pro quo between farmers and taxpayers: Farmers agree to take simple steps to protect soil and wetlands in return for generous farm and insurance subsidies.

“Conservation compliance, supported by hundreds of organizations during the 2014 farm bill negotiations, is one of the most significant tools we have to protect our water, air, and soil,” said Mike Lavender, policy analyst for EWG. “The vast majority of farmers have been subject to these conservation requirements since 1995; there is no reason to delay implementation of these provisions.”

While stripping environmental protections, the committee failed to adopt two common-sense amendments that would protect the environment and save taxpayers billions.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) offered an amendment that would have eliminated taxpayer-funded subsidies for a small number of farmers and redirected the saved money toward the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides financial assistance to help farmers protect the environment. The amendment would have limited eligibility for federal premium subsidies to farmers with an adjusted gross income less than $750,000.

An amendment offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to allow taxpayers to see who receives federal crop insurance also failed. Crop insurance costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year, but there is no way to know who gets it. Making public the names of crop insurance recipients would help taxpayers hold the program accountable.

“This bill not only harms the environment, but maintains the status quo by refusing reasonable reforms to our broken federal crop insurance program,” said Lavender. “Congress has once again prioritized the pocketbooks of a select few over the common good.”